Read any Good Books Lately (#10) – Author Kristin Hannah

For those unfamiliar with this author, Kristin Hannah (born September 25, 1960) is an award-winning and bestselling American Writer, who has won numerous awards, including the Golden Heart, the Maggie, and the 1996 National Reader’s Choice award. Hannah was born in California. She graduated from law school in Washington and practiced law in Seattle before becoming a full-time writer. She lives on Bainbridge Island Washington] with her husband and their son. She is a prolific writer with over twenty novels to her credit and they include the following ….. Wikipedia

  • A Handful of Heaven (July 1991)
  • The Enchantment (June 1992)
  • Once in Every Life (December 1992)
  • If You Believe (December 1993)
  • When Lightnings Strikes (October 1994)
  • Waiting for the Moon (September 1995)
  • Home Again (October 1996)
  • On Mystic Lake (February 1999)
  • Angel Falls (April 2000)
  • Summer Island (March 2001)
  • Distant Shores (July 2002)
  • Between Sisters (April 2003)
  • The Things We Do for Love (June 2004)
  • Comfort and Joy (October 2005)
  • Magic Hour (February 2006)
  • Firefly Lane (2008)
  • True Colors (2009)
  • Winter Garden (2010)
  • Night Road (March 2011)
  • Home Front (2012)
  • Fly Away (2013)
  • The Nightingale (2015)

I read The Nightingale  about a year ago. The novel is set in France during the resistance and I found it to be a real page turner. I recommended it to number of my friends and all agreed with my opinion. So, it was only natural that I should add her other novels to my reading list. I have been a little reluctant to plunge right in as her novels tend to be emotional roller coasters that become so engaging that the normal activities of day to day living get pushed into the background. Things like sleeping just gets in the way of finding out what happens next. But I did take the plunge into her 2006 novel Magic Hour and as expected I didn’t get much sleep. From “go to woe” I finished the novel in 24 hours. This is what Amazon has to say about the novel –

“In the rugged Pacific Northwest lies the Olympic National Forest—nearly a million acres of impenetrable darkness and impossible beauty. From deep within this old growth forest, a six-year-old girl appears. Speechless and alone, she offers no clue as to her identity, no hint of her past. Having retreated to her western Washington hometown after a scandal left her career in ruins, child psychiatrist Dr. Julia Cates is determined to free the extraordinary little girl she calls Alice from a prison of unimaginable fear and isolation. To reach her, Julia must discover the truth about Alice’s past—although doing so requires help from Julia’s estranged sister, a local police officer. The shocking facts of Alice’s life test the limits of Julia’s faith and strength, even as she struggles to make a home for Alice—and for herself. In Magic Hour, Kristin Hannah creates one of her most beloved characters, and delivers an incandescent story about the resilience of the human spirit, the triumph of hope, and the meaning of home.”

I am not a literary critic and I neither have the back ground or the inclination to critique or analyse books in depth. My criteria for literary fiction is fairly straight forward – Is the plot believable? are the characters compelling and well developed? Do I have an over riding compulsion not to put the book down? and do I lose sleep in the process of reading?  Based on these criteria Magic Hour is a 10 out of 10 winner.

Enjoy ……………………………………. I will need to get some sleep and acquire some breathing space before I take on another Kristin Hannah novel

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Vaccines

The implementation of sensible Public Health Policies has always been an uphill battle and the battle never seems to end. The American novelist Sinclair Lewis in his 1925 novel Arrowsmith explored the issues that faced a young idealistic physician in pursuing an ethical career in medicine. In that era American main stream physicians resented Public Health policies that, in their view, threatened to interfere with their ability to make a living. In the course of the novel Lewis describes many aspects of medical training, medical practice, scientific research, scientific fraud, medical ethics, public health, and of personal/professional conflicts that are still relevant today. Thankfully the discussion seems to have moved on and in this modern era the medical professions support evidence based scientific Public Health Policies. Yet despite the over whelming evidence in support of  mass immunization there are continuing efforts to undermine the logic, efficacy and efficiency of modern day programs.  In the past children were at risk from any number of infectious diseases. Modern immunization programs and Public Health policies and initiatives have largely made a significant number of those risks things of the past. Yet we seem to have forgotten that in our life time and in our parent’s life times Diphtheria, Whooping Cough, Tetanus, Smallpox and Polio and a whole host of infectious disease that were very real problems have now been brought  under control by public health initiatives. We are in awe of the spectacular achievements of modern medical and surgical technology and we seem to forget the less dramatic efforts of the quiet revolution in hygiene, sanitation and public health that are the real medical achievments of the past century.

 One of the casualties of the internet era is the devaluation of the “expert”. Even such august bodies as the CDC (Centre for Disease Control) seem to rate less credibility than the opinion of non-expert  celebrities. At the risk of calling upon the non-expert opinion of a celebrity I suggest that the viewing of the attached video by John Oliver is a worth while exercise in getting a balanced view of the battle over immunization. I also think it is an indictment of the current state of affairs that the programs of comedic social commentators like John Oliver , Stephen Colbert and John Stewart  are more likely to be factual than the “alternate facts” perpetuated by certain politicians.

PS. The Novel Arrowsmith has been compared with The Citadel published by British novelist A.J. Cronin in 1937. The Citadel also deals with the life experiences of a young idealistic doctor who tries to challenge and improve the existing system of medical practice.

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An Interesting Fact

“Consider Sweden, which offers the most reliable historic records. In 1800, life expectancy at birth was 33 years for women and 31 years for men; today it is 83.5 years and 79.5 years, respectively. In both cases, women live about 5% longer than men.”

Just goes to show – the more things change, the more they stay the same. On another level – at my current age (76 years) I have live 2.3 times longer than a Swedish male in the 1800s and I am still not finished yet.

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YouTube Pick (#14) – Nostalgia

Every body has memories that float to the surface from time to time. A lot of people have fond memories of their  high school and college years,  and a million other times that are filled with many pleasant memories. Nostagia has become a great marketing tool and the market place is rife with commercial attempts make money from the emotion. Just stop for a minute and think of the popularity of classic rock, the numerous tribute bands and fading rock stars on their last, and final, farewell tour. I am not immune to the emotion but my favorite nostalgic musical  memory has nothing to do with the pop music of my youth. Rather it concerns a particular memory from the time of my immigration to Canada. In 1971 the transport method of choice to get to Canada from Australia was by boat (or is it ship?). In those days air fares were too expensive. I traveled on the P&O ship The Oriana from Auckland (New Zealand) to Vancouver with stops in Suva (Fiji) and Hawaii (USA). The trip was laid back and leisurely and although it was a nice respite from the rigors of road travel in New Zealand to this day I cannot understand why anybody would willingly imprison themselves on a luxury cruise ship. We arrived in Suva Harbor in Fiji on Thursday May 20, 1971.The sights, sounds  and smells of Suva were like something out of the past, or perhaps straight out of the pages of  a Somerset Maugham short story. After a little wander around town I headed back to the ship for the most memorable part of the day at departure time in the late afternoon. I  had met a couple of Canadian Engineers who had been on the islands for a few months and to a man they all expressed the sentiment that they had to get out of there or as they said “they would never leave . This place is paradise”. Similarly, I have a friend, Gordon Rae, here in Cranbrook, who had spent time in Fiji, and any time Fiji came up in a conversation he would get misty eyed and mutter  – “every young man should have a Fiji in his life”. Obviously the engineers on the deck of the Oriana that afternoon felt the same way. When the Fijian Police Band on the wharf played “Isa Lei” –  the traditional farewell song – there were tears running down their faces. I thought they were going to jump off the ship. If you want to hear a South Pacific farewell song at its emotional peak then there is no better way than from the deck of a ship. To this day any time I hear Isa Lei I get really choked up.  Here is the song as played by the Fijian Police Band

You can check any one of many other versions on YouTube but for me the one above is the most evocative. I can still see those Canadian engineers standing on the deck of the Oriana in the late afternoon sun with the tears running down their faces as the tune wafted up from the wharf.

The high emotional content of the song is understandable. In the old days when some one left the islands it was unlikely that they would ever return. Without a doubt it is one of the most beautiful tunes on the planet – bar none.

Here is another less traditional version that was recorded by Ry Cooder. It is good but for me it doesn’t quite match the emotional content of the Fijian Police Band

Ed Gerhard’s version is also worth a listen.

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You know you are from the Kootenays when………

(I came across this is an old email from Kim McCavenay. It is a variation on a theme – “You know you are in Saskatchewan when…….. “)

  • Your idea of a traffic jam is ten cars waiting to pass a tractor on the highway.
  • You get angry when the only traffic light in town makes you 30 seconds late for work.
  • You measure distances in hours.
  • “Vacation” means a trip to Calgary.
  • You know lots of people have hit a deer more than once.
  • You often switch from “heat” to “A/C” in the same day.
  • You use a down comforter in the summer.
  • Your grandparents drive at 65mph through 13 feet of snow during a raging blizzard without flinching.
  • You see people wearing hunting cloths at a social event.
  • You install security lights on your house and garage and leave both unlocked.
  • You think of major food groups as deer, fish and berries
  • You carry jumper cables in your car and your girl friends knows how to use them.
  • There are seven empty cars running in the parking lot of Canadian Tire at any given time.
  • You design your kid’s Halloween costume to go over their snow suits.
  • Driving is better in winter because the potholes are full of snow.
  • You think lingerie is tube socks and flannel pajamas.
  • You know all four seasons – winter, winter, still winter and construction season.
  • It takes you three hours to go to the store for one item even when you are in a rush because you have to stop and talk to everyone in town.

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Read any good books lately? (#7) – War Stories

I have always considered myself a lucky person. I was born in the right place at the right time. I have never had to experience war, famine, pestilence, unemployment  or significant economic depression. My parents generation were not so lucky. They lived through the dirty thirties, World War II and the Korean war. I am part of a large extended family (my mum was one of fourteen children  and dad was one of three – that adds up to a lot of relatives) and what is remarkable is that not one of my many relatives were killed or physically maimed in WWII.. My dad did not go off to war but two of my uncles fought against the Japanese in New guinea. My Uncle Bill and Uncle Hector were young farm boys not even out of their teens when they were shipped off to war. I often think about that – at nineteen years of age what was I doing? Would I have been up to the challenge? Like many ex-soldiers my uncles had many demons  to deal with after the war. For years after being demobbed my Uncle Bill slept with a loaded  revolver under his pillow and often woke up screaming from horrendous night mares. That is one of the many tragedies of war. My Uncle Bill’s story is worth telling and at some future date I will do just that.The thing that is so striking is the youth of my uncles going off to war and that is a consistent theme in the following books. Namely it is the youth, some times extreme youth of the soldiers that fought and continue to fight in wars that are basically  the legacy of older inept leaders, politicians and diplomats. I know that often the intentions of the leadership are noble  but the fact remains that it is the young that fight and die and pay the price of going to war. The very act of going to war is an admission of failure of normal civilized processes. I am not particularly a military or war story story buff but I think the following books are well worth reading –

Of course, for the USA the Vietnam War was the pivotal armed conflict of the 20th Century. It put an end to the notion that America had never lost a war (they forget about the war of 1812) and has had a profound effect on political and military thinking ever since that American defeat. I am sure that, like WWII, there have been many books written about the conflict and the experiences of the soldiers and politicians who were involved in the war. Here are two books I can recommend without reservations.

CHICKEN HAWK by ROBERT MASON   More than half a million copies of Chickenhawk have been sold since it was first published in 1983. I first stumbled on this book in the Cranbrook Library and years later I found a cheap second hand copy in a used book store in Australia. Over the years I have  picked up this book and re-read it many times. Prior to reading this book I thought that helicopters and their crews were way above the fray with capabilities of getting out of trouble in an instant. I was way wrong on that score. Here is an Amazon.ca review of the book .

“Robert Mason uses a clear, conversational, fast-paced narrative to describe his experiences as an army helicopter pilot from 1965-1967, including a tour of Vietnam.
Mason always wanted to fly. Leaving college early, joining the army and becoming a helicopter pilot seemed like the way to do it. After successfully graduating from flight school, he comes to learn that the army has devised a new way to use helicopters in warfare — and Mason is drawn into the army air cavalry. Mason describes enough of how to fly a huey so you feel that you are right there with him. You experience the fatigue of war. You read as well, the senselessness and brutality of it — his gunner kills “human shields” in order to get a VC machine gunner, a platoon murders 12 prisoners as revenge for the torture and death of their comrades, a pilot is shot through the helmet yet miraculously survives, a fully laden huey lands in a minefield, and everywhere bodies are piling up faster than the army can take care of. Mason also describes his post-traumatic stress disorder, his panic attacks that start to haunt him towards the end of his tour, and his bouts with alcoholism.

There is much in Mason and his fellow soldiers that is admirable. Mason’s narrative presents a convincing portrait of the Vietnam war from a soldier’s point of view — a war Mason and many of his fellow soldiers didn’t entirely believe in, a war that didn’t match the descriptions in the press, or the pronouncements from the generals and the President.”

As an after thought, I remember a conversation I had with blues musician Mighty Joe Oliver when he was living here in Cranbrook. Although he was a Canadian, Joe volunteered and fought in Vietnam and he can remember flying in helicopters and sitting on his metal helmet to obtain at least a sliver of protection from bullets coming up though the floor of the aircraft.

THE TRASH HAULERS by Richard Herman

This is part three of the ONLY THE BRAVE TRILOGY (THE WAR BIRDS / THE FORCE OF EAGLES /  THE TRASH HAULERS). Of the three THE TRASH HAULERS  is the best. The first two are about fictitious military confrontations with Iran and, while military air craft fans will probably  enjoy the operational minutiae  embedded in the stories I think  it is the last story TRASH HAULERS that takes the prize. It is easy to believe that the author was at least a  witness to the events. ” Over an action packed 24 hours in Vietnam on January 31, 1968, three lives collide amidst war and violence.  Captain Mark Warren and his crew are trash haulers, airlifting supplies and personnel on their C-130 Hercules, the workhorse of tactical airlift. At the same time Wilson Tanner is a Dust Off pilot who risks all by flying a Huey on a rescue mission. In the jungles below at Se Pang, Colonel Tran Sang Quan comes into conflict with inept superiors as they initiate the People’s Army of Vietnam’s long-planned General Offensive and Uprising. This is the beginning of the Tet Offensive.  Both sides face more than the enemy as superior officers manouver for political advantage, and where cowardice, prejudice and treachery infiltrate the ranks – on both sides. In the air and on the land, raw courage, tenacity, and honor are the marks of humanity that deal with the wreckage of war”. The novel reeks with authenticity and is well worth the read.

Wikipedia: This is an image of one version of the C-130 Hercules. The Lockheed C-130 Hercules is a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft designed and built originally by Lockheed. Capable of using unprepared runways for takeoffs and landings, the C-130 was originally designed as a troop, medevac, and cargo transport aircraft. The versatile air frame   has found uses in a variety of other roles, including as a gunship for airborne assault, search and rescue, scientific research support, weather reconnaissance,aerial refueling, marine patrol, and aerial firefighting.  It is now the main tactical airlifter for many military forces worldwide. Over forty variants and versions of the Hercules, including a civilian one marketed as the Lockheed L-100,  operate in more than 60 nations. At over 60 years the  C-130 Hercules is the longest continuously produced military aircraft currently in service.

The Bell UH-1 Iroquois known as Huey. This is the machine that changed the face of war.

YOMPERS WITH THE 45 COMMANDOS IN THE FALKLAND WAR,, by Ian R. Gardiner

The Vietnam war was about winning hearts and minds and in its least toxic manifestation it was about politics. At its most toxic the Americans were an invading occupying force and, like any occupying force, they eventually had to go home. The North Vietnamese knew that and that was their ace in the hole. They only had to hang on and keep up the pressure and eventually the Americans would have to leave. It had worked with the French and in the end it worked with the Americans. Although the Americans are reluctant to admit it they lost the war and have had had to live with scars and consequences of that defeat.

The Falkland Island War is a different story in many ways. It was very much about territory. “Hearts and minds” were not a problem. The Falkland Islanders were British and the British Army was the home team. And back at home the war was popular and literally saved the government of Margaret Thatcher from possible political defeat. It was also a very short war with a major naval component and on land the British contingent was composed of professional soldiers. Not conscripts. The lines of communication were lengthy and the terrain was vastly different to the jungles of Vietnam. It was fought in cold and foggy conditions on mostly treeless moors very akin to the highlands of Scotland. The Argentinians severely under estimated Britain’s willingness to fight for the islands. Also their timing was off. Britain had been considering disbanding their amphibious assault forces and a couple of months delay by the Argentinians could have resulted in a very different outcome. In essence this was an old fashion war fought by professional soldiers on the ground without massive tactical air support.

WIKIPEDIA: The Falklands War (Spanish: Guerra de las Malvinas), also known as the Falklands Conflict, Falklands Crisis, and the Guerra del Atlántico Sur (Spanish for “South Atlantic War“), was a ten-week war between Argentina and the United Kingdom over two  British overseas territories in the South Atlantic: the Falkland Islands  and South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands. It began on Friday, 2 April 1982, when Argentina invaded  and occupied the Falkland Islands  (and, the following day, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands) in an attempt to establish the sovereignty it claimed over them.  On 5 April, the British government dispatched a naval task force to engage the Argentine Navy and Air Force before making an amphibious assault on the islands. The conflict lasted 74 days and ended with the Argentine surrender on 14 June 1982, returning the islands to British control. In total, 649 Argentine military personnel, 255 British military personnel, and three Falkland Islanders died during the hostilities.

From the Amazon review:

“Called to action on 2 April 1982, the men of 45 Commando Royal Marines assembled from around the world to sail 8,000 miles to recover the Falkland Islands from Argentine invasion. Lacking helicopters and short of food, they ‘yomped’ in appalling weather carrying overloaded rucksacks, across the roughest terrain. Yet for a month in mid-winter, they remained a cohesive fighting-fit body of men. They then fought and won the highly successful and fierce night battle for Two Sisters, a 1,000 foot high mountain which was the key to the defensive positions around Stanley.

This is a first hand story of that epic feat, but it is much more than that. The first to be written by a company commander in the Falklands War, the book gives a compelling, vivid description of the ‘yomp’ and infantry fighting, and it also offers penetrating insights into the realities of war at higher levels. It is a unique combination of descriptive writing about front-line fighting and wider reflections on the Falklands War, and conflict in general. Gritty and moving; sophisticated, reflective and funny, this book offers an abundance of timeless truths about war.

Postscript: ‘Yomping’ was the word used by the Commandos for carrying heavy loads on long marches. It caught the public’s imagination during this short but bitter campaign and epitomized the grim determination and professionalism of our troops.”

The last book is about the war of current generation It is about Afghanistan.

OUTLAW PLATOON: HEROES, RENEGADES, INFIDELS, AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF WAR IN AFGHANISTAN  by Sean Parnell

From Amazon .ca

At twenty-four years of age, U.S. Army Ranger Sean Parnell was named commander of a forty-man elite infantry platoon, the 10th Mountain Division—a unit that came to be known as the Outlaws. Tasked with rooting out Pakistan-based insurgents from a valley in the Hindu Kush, Parnell assumed they would be facing a ragtag bunch of civilians until, in May 2006, a routine patrol turned into a brutal ambush. Through sixteen months of combat, the platoon became Parnell’s family. The cost of battle was high for these men. Not all of them made it home, but for those who did, it was the love and faith they found in one another that ultimately kept them alive.

The Review “The range of emotions that Sean Parnell summons in Outlaw Platoon is stunning. A nuanced, compelling memoir . . . Parnell shows he’s a gifted, brave storyteller.” (Pittsburgh Tribune)^“Outlaw Platoon put me back on the battlefield again. It’s a heartfelt story that shows how very different people can be thrown together in combat and find a way to make it work. Parnell and the soldiers who fought beside him are all courageous heroes—real bad asses.” (Chris Kyle, author of American Sniper).Two of the most intense tales of courage under fire I own are Black Hawk Down and Lone Survivor. I now have a third, Outlaw Platoon. It’s an absolutely gripping, edge-of-your-seat ride.” (Brad Thor, author of Full Black)^“Outlaw Platoon is an utterly gripping account of what our soldiers endure on the front lines—the frustrations, the fear, the loneliness. . . Here, in these pages, are the on-the-ground realities of a war we so rarely witness on news broadcasts” (Tim O’Brien, author of The Things They Carried) Outlaw Platoon is an exceptional look into the mind of a platoon leader in Afghanistan; Captain Parnell shares his experiences of leadership, loss, and aggressive military tactics. You can really feel the bonds forged between these brothers in arms as the battle plays out” (Marcus Luttrell, author of Lone Survivor). At times, I forgot I was reading about a war as I was drawn up in the drama the same way you are when reading Krakauer’s Into Thin Air . . . This is a book of probing honesty, wrenching drama and courage.” (Doug Stanton, author of Horse Soldiers) a  soulful story of men at war . . . Outlaw Platoon shows us that the love and brotherhood forged in the fires of combat are the most formidable quaities a unit can possess.” (Steven Pressfield, author of Gates of Fire). Outlaw Platoon is expertly told by a man who braved the heat of battle time and time again. An epic story as exacting as it is suspenseful, it reveals the bravery and dedication of our armed service men and women around the world.” (Clive Cussler). This book is more than just a rip-roaring combat narrative: it is a profoundly moving exploration into the nature and evolution of the warrior bond forged in desperate, against-all-odds battles. A significant book, not to be missed.” (Jack Coughlin, author of Shooter: The Autobiography of the Top-Ranked Marine Sniper). Outlaw Platoon is the real deal. It’s a terrific tale of combat leadership that deserves to be studied by all small-unit leaders. The narrative goes beyond the battlefield to depict the maddening nature of the war and the grit of those who selflessly protect us.” (Bing West, author of No True Glory). Sean Parnell reaches past the band-of-brothers theme to a place of brutal self-awareness . . . he never flinches from a fight, nor the hard questions of a messy war.” (Kevin Sites, author of In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars)”

For me the most telling element in the book is the incredible youth of the soldiers in this action. Why so young? and to what purpose? A foreign war in a foreign land that in reality has nothing to do with the preservation of the America’s home security. In some ways there are still echoes of that lost war in Vietnam of so many years ago. They seem to be fighting the same battles for same wrong reasons.

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Pardon my language ……….

First they came …” is a statement and poem written by Pastor  Martin Niemoller (1892- 1984) about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazi’ rise to power and subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group. Many variations and adaptations in the spirit of the original have been published in the English language. It deals with themes of persecution, guilt and responsibility. …..   Wikipedia.

The above image, a response to Donald Trump’s targeting of Muslims is enough to make us wonder is history about to repeat itself. Let’s hope not.

FIRST THEY CAME FOR THE SOCIALISTS, AND I DID NOT SPEAK OUT…… BECAUSE I AM NOT A SOCIALIST.

THEN THEY CAME FOR THE TRADE UNIONISTS, AND I DID NOT SPEAK OUT…….. BECAUSE I WAS NOT A TRADE UNIONIST.

THEN THEY CAME FOR THE JEWS, AND I DID NOT SPEAK OUT…………… BECAUSE I WAS NOT A JEW.

THEN THEY CAME FOR ME —– AND THERE WAS NO ONE LEFT TO SPEAK FOR ME.

This image was sent to me by my son who lives with his family in California  –  “Rather tumultuous weekend here in the US. Scary to see how quickly things can devolve, but also how quickly they can be resisted by an engaged populace. I am heartened to think that the left might be getting its shit together to resist Trump and his cronies.”

And now for some humour ……

I could be wrong but I think that the TV series CORNER GAS it is a work of pure genius.  To prove the point here is an insert from the box set of the six seasons of the TV show that could only have come out of Canada.

YOU KNOW YOU ARE IN SASKATCHEWAN WHEN…….

  • Your idea of a traffic jam is ten cars waiting to pass a tractor and combine crew on the highway.
  • “Going South” means driving to Montana.
  • Winnipeg is “back east”.
  • You often reply: “you bet!” or “hell yes”.
  • All the festivals across the province are named after fruits, vegetables, grain or testicles.
  • You’ve gotten a “To Go” drink from the local bar.
  • You’ve stopped by the local bar to cash a cheque.
  • You actually have enough ball caps to match every shirt you own, although you still insist on wearing only one so the others don’t get dirty.
  • The bank teller asks to see some proof of identification and you point to the arm patch on your slow-pitch jacket.
  • You know what “Cow Tipping”, “Garden Raiding” and “Snipe Hunting” is.
  • You design your kids Halloween costume to fit over a snow suit.
  • You’ve gone to the grocery store on a snowmobile.
  • Driving in winter is better because the potholes are filled with snow.
  • Driving in winter is often simply a matter of staying between the fence posts.
  • You’ve attempted to set new land speed records on Saskatchewan highways.
  • You carry a roll of toilet paper in the glove box in case you have to stop and go by the road.
  • You find yourself driving over the longest bridge over the shortest body of water.
  • You discover there are more grasshoppers than people in town.
  • Your radio antenna is an old cloths hanger or a piece of bailing wire.
  • You know what a Prairie Oyster is and how to cook them.
  • You know someone who has accidentally shot himself.
  • losing the sight of the horizon, for even a few seconds, leaves you with that icky feeling of disorientation for the rest of the day.
  • You rent off-season storage space for your snowmobile on a week-by-week basis.
  • You sort your laundry into three loads: greens, whites and green-and-whites.
  • Every birthday you receive exactly the present you most desperately need: a new curling broom.
  • You catch yourself “getting down” to the radio jingles for post-emergent broad-leaf weed control.

Ron Petrie – Saskatchewan Leader Post

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And just in case that isn’t enough here is Rick Mercer’s classic comment on the weather….

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Read any good books lately? (#6) – Aroatoare

Aroatoare – “The Land of the Long White Cloud”, this is the name the early Polynesian seafarers gave New Zealand when they first colonised the two islands around  800 AD.  In the popular imagination of North Americans,  New Zealanders and Australians are grouped together. Although their accents are similar they are different people with different histories. Modern Australia came about as a collection of penal settlements. Habituated by convicts, felons, political prisoners  and their jailers who the British government dumped in a harsh forbidding land that became Australia. They were surrounded by almost inconceivable expanses of bush and lived cheek by jowl with an aboriginal population that was beyond a white man’s comprehension. The life was hard, harsh and that shaped a rather flinty race of inhabitants. New Zealand, on the other hand was never host to penal settlements of any kind. The Polynesians were there long before the white man and were basically a free people with a highly developed culture. They literally owned the land and did not take kindly to attempts to being  dispossessed and to prove a point they went to war with the whites to assert their rights. The early white settlers were free people untainted by any convict blood. Modern day New Zealanders do not hesitate to point that out. The Maori can often trace his ancestry back to the immigrants of the canoe that brought them across the sea from “Hawaii”.  The historical literature of Australia is about convicts, jailers and bush rangers and the struggle to survive. New Zealand’s stories are about fairly peaceful settlement, and apart from the Maori wars at one stage,  and peaceful interactions between whites and Maoris. I think I can safely say the New Zealand must be one of the few places colonized by white  men where the indigenous population has actually changed the white man.

The German author Sarah Lark explores the early New Zealand experiences  in a series of  “landscape novels” that have made her a best selling author in her native Germany. Fortunately the novels have been translated into English and are available from Amazon.ca on Kindle. The concept of New Zealand historical novels written by a German author would seem unlikely and yet, in execution, the three novels in the trilogy work well. They are historical romance novels that could be disparagingly described as “chicklit” but that would be too unkind. They have a lot more strength and depth than a typical “harlequin” paperback. Having traveled and lived in New Zealand, the novels have a geographical and cultural authenticity that takes me back to the time I spent there  many years ago. For an excellent read I recommend all three novels. Below is the synopsis of the three novels available from Amazon.ca.

In the Land of the Long White Cloud (In the Land of the Long White Cloud saga Book 1)

Helen Davenport, governess for a wealthy London household, longs for a family of her own—but nearing her late twenties, she knows her prospects are dim. Then she spots an advertisement seeking young women to marry New Zealand’s honorable bachelors and begins an affectionate correspondence with a gentleman farmer. When her church offers to pay her travels under an unusual arrangement, she jumps at the opportunity.

Meanwhile, not far away in Wales, beautiful and daring Gwyneira Silkham, daughter of a wealthy sheep breeder, is bored with high society. But when a mysterious New Zealand baron deals her father an unlucky blackjack hand, Gwyn’s hand in marriage is suddenly on the table. Her family is outraged, but Gwyn is thrilled to escape the life laid out for her.

The two women meet on the ship to Christchurch—Helen traveling in steerage, Gwyn first class—and become unlikely friends. When their new husbands turn out to be very different than expected, the women must help one another find the life—and love—they’d hoped for.

Set against the backdrop of colonial nineteenth-century New Zealand, In the Land of the Long White Cloud is a soaring saga of friendship, romance, and unforgettable adventure.

Song of the Spirits (In the Land of the Long White Cloud saga Book 2)

This is volume 2 in the internationally bestselling In the Land of the Long White Cloud saga.  Song of the Spirits continues the soaring saga begun with In the Land of the Long White Cloud, as the founding families of colonial New Zealand experience trials and triumphs of friendship, romance, and unforgettable adventure.

Elaine O’Keefe is the radiant grand-daughter of Gwyneira McKenzie, who made her way to New Zealand to take a wealthy sheep baron’s hand in marriage in In the Land of the Long White Cloud. Elaine inherited not only her grandmother’s red hair but also her feisty spirit, big heart, and love of the land. When William Martyn, a handsome young Irishman of questionable integrity, walks into her life, she succumbs rapidly to his charms. Only to have her heart broken when her sensual half-Maori cousin Kura Warden arrives for a visit and draws William away.

Though both young women must endure hardships and disappointments as they learn to live with the choices they make, each of them also discovers an inner resilience—and eventually finds love and happiness in new, unexpected places. Tested by the harsh realities of colonial life, both girls mature into spirited young women with a greater understanding of the challenges—and joys—of love, friendship, and family.

Call of the Kiwi (In the Land of the Long White Cloud saga Book 3)

In the exhilarating conclusion to the internationally bestselling In the Land of the Long White Cloud trilogy, the spirited Warden and McKenzie clan continues its trials—and triumphs—in New Zealand and beyond.

The great-granddaughter of Gwyneira McKenzie—who arrived in New Zealand as a naïve young bride in In the Land of the Long White Cloud—Gloria Martyn has enjoyed an idyllic childhood at Kiward Station, her family’s sprawling sheep farm in the Canterbury Plains. When her parents send word from Europe that it’s time for Gloria to become a proper “lady” by attending boarding school half a world away in England, Gloria must leave everything and everyone she loves most in the world, including her steadfast protector Jack McKenzie. Wrenched from her beloved homeland and struggling to fit in with the stifling strictures of British boarding-school life, Gloria has never felt more alone. Upon discovering that her parents have no intention of ever sending her home, Gloria takes matters into her own hands and sets off on an adventure that will change her forever.

A stirring coming-of-age tale of love, loss, endurance, shame, and redemption that takes readers from the lush plains of New Zealand’s South Island to the bloody shores of Gallipoli, across Australia’s Northern Territory and beyond, Call of the Kiwi is a profoundly satisfying conclusion to the saga that has captured readers’ hearts across the globe.

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Sarah Lark has written many novels and now currently lives with four dogs and a cat on her farm in Almería, Spain, where she cares for retired horses, plays guitar, and sings in her spare time.

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